During their eight years in the White House, Barack and Michelle Obama had to cope with more than just their official duties. Sasha (Natasha) was just seven years old, and Malia was 11 when their father became President of the United States. Bringing up young children is hard enough, let alone when your every move is scrutinised.
1Don’t over-protect them
The Obamas said they could easily have wrapped their girls up in cotton wool to shield them from the very public circumstances in which they grew up. But that wouldn’t have helped them become independent, kind and compassionate young women.
“I can’t cherish them to death,” said Michelle Obama. “We have to raise our children to be the adults we want them to be, and that starts young. You can’t be so afraid life will break them that you don’t prepare them for life. Sometimes our fear keeps us from pushing our kids out into the cold, cruel world. And then they’re not ready, and we wonder why.”
2Do things as a family
It’s important to spend time together as a family – you don’t need to be POTUS to get overwhelmed by all the other demands on your attention. The trick is to make it count.
“Don’t just sit in the house and watch SportsCenter all weekend long,” says Barack Obama. “That’s why so many children are growing up in front of the television. As fathers and parents, we’ve got to spend more time with them. Help with their homework, replace the video game or remote control with a book once in a while.”
3Remember we are our kids’ role models
Our children pick up on the words we speak, the things we do. They watch us and use us as a guide for their behaviour. It’s something we should be aware of at all times.
“For many of us, our fathers show us by the example they set the kind of people they want us to become,” warned Barack Obama. “They teach us through the encouragement they give, the questions they answer, the limits they set and the strength they show in the face of difficulty and hardship.”
4Kids need unconditional love
No matter what happens, whether they succeed or fail, our kids need to know we love them. Michelle Obama says her daughters come first – always.
“I love our daughters more than anything in the world – more than life itself. For me, being Mom-in-Chief is, and always will be job number one.”
5Being active is important
Michelle Obama asked each of her daughters to take up one sport they wanted to do, and one she chose for them. She also encouraged them to try both an individual and team game to help make them well-rounded people.
“I encourage my girls to get comfortable being sweaty, dirty, physically falling down and getting back up and realising you’ll be ok,” she said.
6Make time for yourself
There’s no harm in your kids seeing you look after yourself. Whether it’s a date night or taking a few hours out to do something you love, children need to understand there are times when we’re not just mum or dad.
“When I work out, I’m working out as much for my girls as I am for me. I want them to see a mother who loves them dearly, who invests in them, but who also invests in herself. It’s as much about letting them know as young women that it’s ok to put yourself a little higher on your priority list.”